Mike Ashley’s Frasers group is thumbing its nose at the high street slowdown by opening three giant flagship stores for its designer chain Flannels – and planning 15 more in the next five years.
The former House of Fraser in Meadowhall shopping center in Sheffield and a former Owen Owen department store in Liverpool will become Flannels outlets, as well as a site in a new development at Fosse Park shopping center in Leicester.
The 11,148 square meter seven-story Liverpool store will feature a fitness studio, rooftop restaurant and beauty room, which will be a new venture for Flannels. The stores in Sheffield and Leicester will also be over 30,000 square feet – roughly twice the size of the Flannels flagship store on London’s Oxford Street – and will also house beauty salons and fitness studios.
Michael Murray, the ‘head of elevation’ at Frasers, said Liverpool have ‘an unrivaled appetite for the kind of luxury we do best’. He added that the high streets wanted destination stores offering experiences. “We recognize that communities welcome with open arms exciting and much-needed additions to their main streets,” he said.
The company said the outlets will be “next-generation stores,” describing them as “modern and agile retail spaces” offering “runway collections” alongside new and emerging brands.
The stores in Liverpool and Meadowhall were expected to convert to the group’s high-end department store brand Frasers, questioning mini-chain plans, five of which were slated to open this year.
The opening of what will effectively be three luxury department stores comes despite a gloomy year for those retail spaces in 2020. Ashley’s House of Fraser chain has closed seven stores in the past year, bringing the total to 45. John Lewis has closed eight and Debenhams, which is in administration and is hoping for a Frasers bailout deal, has already closed 40.
Flannels, which mainly sells luxury streetwear like Balenciaga sneakers for over £ 500 or Stone Island sweatshirts for £ 220, has proven to be an apparent success – growing from 12 stores to 40 stores in four years.
Maureen Hinton of retail analytics firm GlobalData said plans for giant Flannels stores were “high risk” at a difficult time for UK retailing. She said other luxury department stores, such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, had struggled outside London.
“Selfridges knows a lot about luxury retail and that they don’t bother opening more [stores outside London] indicates that there is a limit to what you can do, ”Hinton said.